Truth and Consequences ~ Lesson Overview

October 11, 2011

(Click here for a printer-friendly version of this lesson.)

GRADES: 9-12

TIME ALLOTMENT: Three to four 45-minute class periods


In this lesson, students will examine the unfortunately widespread and longstanding phenomenon of wartime rape through a case study of the Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal, convened in 1995 to specifically prosecute rapes and other sexual crimes committed during the 1993-1995 civil war in Bosnia.

In the Introductory Activity, students will discuss the background history of Yugoslavia and how the wars which accompanied its dissolution in the 1990s were a perfect storm of the factors–civil conflict, ethnic conflict, and irregular military forces–which most frequently result in wartime rape and other sexual crimes. In the Learning Activities, students will use video segments from the “I Came to Testify” episode of the PBS series Women, War & Peace to more deeply explore the multiethnic nature Yugoslavia, the unraveling of this peaceful coexistence due to political scapegoating and fear-mongering, the degeneration of the ensuing war into atrocities, the Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal’s historically specific prosecution of rape and other sexual crimes as war crimes against humanity, and the bitter aftermath of these crimes in Bosnia’s now permanently altered landscape. In the Culminating Activity, students will write research reports describing other recent conflict zones which have been characterized by widespread wartime rape, comparing and contrasting them with what they’ve learned about the Bosnian war.

This lesson is best used during or after a world history unit about contemporary geopolitics and ongoing military conflicts.



Students will be able to:

  • outline the 20th century history of Yugoslavia and the Balkans.
  • describe what life was life in Marshall Tito’s Yugoslavia.
  • explain how and why the Yugoslavian multiethnic social fabric unraveled in the 1990s.
  • discuss why civil and ethnic conflicts have a tendency to devolve into war crimes.
  • describe why the establishment and mission of the Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal set a historic precedent.
  • discuss the consequences of rape and other sexual crimes for both individual victims and their larger communities.



New York State Standards:

Standard SS2: World History

Students will use a variety of intellectual skills to demonstrate their understanding of major ideas, eras, themes, developments, and turning points in world history and examine the broad sweep of history from a variety of perspectives.

●      Key Idea SS2.2: Establishing timeframes, exploring different periodizations, examining themes across time and within cultures, and focusing on important turning points in world history help organize the study of world cultures and civilizations.

  • Performance Indicator SS2.C.2A: Students distinguish between the past, present, and future by creating multiple-tier timelines that display important events and developments from world history across time and place.
  • Performance Indicator SS2.C.2C: Students analyze evidence critically and demonstrate an understanding of how circumstances of time and place influence perspective.
  • Performance Indicator SS2.C.2D: Students explain the importance of analyzing narratives drawn from different times and places to understand historical events.
  • Performance Indicator SS2.C.2E: Students investigate key events and developments and major turning points in world history to identify the factors that brought about change and the long-term effects of these changes.
  • Key Idea SS2.4: The skills of historical analysis include the ability to investigate differing and competing interpretations of the theories of history, hypothesize about why interpretations change over time, explain the importance of historical evidence, and understand the concepts of change and continuity over time.
    • Performance Indicator SS2.C.4A: Students identify historical problems, pose analytical questions or hypotheses, research analytical questions or test hypotheses, formulate conclusions or generalizations, raise new questions or issues for further investigation.
    • Performance Indicator SS2.C.4D: Students analyze different interpretations of important events, issues, or developments in world history by studying the social, political, and economic context in which they were developed; by testing the data source for reliability and validity, credibility, authority, authenticity, and completeness; and by detecting bias, distortion of the facts, and propaganda by omission, suppression, or invention of facts.


National Standards:

National Standards in World History for Grades 5-12

●      World History/Era 9/Standard 2C: The student understands how liberal democracy, market economies, and human rights movements have reshaped political and social life. 

●      World History/Era 9/Standard 2D: The student understands major sources of tension and conflict in the contemporary world and efforts that have been made to address them. 

●      World History/Era 9/Standard 3A: The student understands major global trends since World War II.




Women, War & Peace, Episode One: “I Came To Testify,” selected segments

Access the video segments for this lesson at the Video Segments Page.

Clip 1: “War Was In The Air”

This clip provides historical background on Yugoslavia, and how it began to unravel with a series of national separatist movements in the early 1990s.

Clip 2: “Neighbor On Neighbor”

This clip describes how atrocities against civilians in the Bosnian civil war were broadcast to an international audience on television—with little impact.

Clip 3: “Building The Case”

This clip describes the precedent set by Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal prosecutors in establishing rape as a specific war crime, and the bravery of the witnesses they called to testify.

Clip 4: “The Testimony”

The clip features Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal testimony from witnesses against their accused Bosnian Serb rapists.

Clip 5: “Judgment And Legacy”

This clip explores the complicated legacy of the Tribunal’s final judgments in the affected communities in Bosnia.




Yugoslavia & The Balkans

An interactive website from the BBC outlining the history of Yugoslavia.


America: Every City, Every Block

A website created by the New York Times which maps demographic data from the 2010 census.


Understanding the Dayton Accords

An interactive map from the producers of WOMEN, WAR & PEACE showing the ethnic demographics of Bosnia-Herzegovina before, during and after the bloody civil war there in the 1990s.



For the class:

●        Computer with internet access, projection screen, and speakers (for class viewing of video segments)

●        “The History of Yugoslavia” Student Organizer Answer Key (download here)

For each group of 4-5 students:

●        Computer with internet access

For each student:

●        “The History of Yugoslavia” Student Organizer (download here)


Prior to teaching this lesson, you will need to:


Preview all of the video segments and websites used in the lesson.


Bookmark all websites which you plan to use in the lesson on each computer in your classroom. Using a social bookmarking tool such as del.icio.us or diigo (or an online bookmarking utility such as portaportal) will allow you to organize all the links in a central location.


Print out copies of the “The History of Yugoslavia” Student Organizer and a copy of the “The History of Yugoslavia” Student Organizer Answer Key.


Proceed to Lesson Activities